How to Cut Costs Using the Internet

Author: John Honovich, Published on Jan 03, 2009

The recession is forcing broad reductions. Worse, the era of excess consumer spending is over. In response, most business around the world, whether they buy or sell video surveillance, will have to tighten their belts. Even if your company was growing quickly and is still growing, these forces are likely to reduce the ultimate growth potential of your business.

You can either accept this (layoffs, hiring freezes, eliminate perks, etc.) or you can use the Internet to lower your cost structure  This report examines how both end users and sellers of video surveillance can reduce their costs by up to 20% through using the Internet.

The smart way to respond to the recession (long term) is increase efficiency - to increase the productivity of the assets you use.

End Users (Buyers of Video Surveillance)

The two biggest inefficiencies of buying video surveillance are:

  • Getting the wrong solution
  • Paying too much

This happens all the time and is almost an inevitable consequence of traditional sales and marketing. Indeed, a key motivator to build these large product manufacturers is to get you to buy sub-optimal solutions at more money (or as we discussed a few months ago, the problems of buying from big companies).

Solution for End Users

End users need to use the Internet to educate themselves and to control their selection process. The problem is fundamentally insufficient information. While the sales person has more information they do on what they are selling, their interests are generally not aligned with yours. Use the Internet to educate yourself. Steps you should take:

The more you know and the less dependent you make yourself on the people selling you products, the better solution you will get at less money. While this has always been good advice, it is much more easy to achieve with the maturation of the Internet.

Solution for the Channel / Manufacturers (Video Surveillance Sellers)

As a whole, the industry sucks at using the Internet for sales and marketing. The only companies that know what they are doing are the small shops that sell cameras online. Indeed, these companies do way better than the deep pocket industry leaders like Pelco and Axis.

The industry is incredibly over-reliant on sales people and trade shows. Ironically, these are the most expensive forms of sales and marketing.

Here's a prediction: In the next 3 years, the companies that learn to leverage the Internet for sales and marketing will gain a sizable competitive advantage, significantly reduce their cost structure and enable faster much faster growth that their peers that do not.

Don't believe me?  Consider this:
  • Just in the US, in 2008, there were over 3 million searches just for the term video surveillance. There's at least another 15 million searches on video surveillance related terms (security cameras, IP cameras, security DVRs, etc., etc.)
  • Manufacturers, integrators and distributors get no more than 5% of this traffic. Try some searches yourself and you will see the well known companies rarely return high results.
  • Over 2/3rds of people research products online.

The bottom line is that the Internet is already a huge force and video surveillance companies are extremely poor at taking advantage of this.

Given the recession, it's fairly obvious that the importance of the Internet will only grow with buyers.

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And online marketing is very inexpensive. The small online stores that dominate the search results clearly do not have a lot of money. Despite this, for tens of thousands of dollars they get over 500,000 visitors every year. Compare that to your trade show expenditures.

Using the Internet can let you reduce traditional marketing while increasing the revenue each salesperson can generate (by providing more high quality leads cheaper).

The question then becomes: How can companies improve their online marketing to take advantage of this?

Let's start with correcting the obvious remedial problems. Most companies make these mistakes (I see this all the time when I review their websites for inclusion into the spider).

  • The title of each webpage needs to be unique and descriptive for that page. Over 50% of companies use their company name as the title for every webpage. This is bad and Google penalizes you for this. If this is your product page and it is an IP camera, name the "IP Camera Day/Night 1.3 MPs from Camera Co." You may not ever rank without making sure this is corrected. (If you were not aware of this, it means you probably know nothing about Search Engine optimization - download this free introductory search optimization book.)
  • All of your URLs should be descriptive. Most companies do things like cameracompany.com/page.php?id=27&category=3. Instead, you should again be descriptive: cameracompany.com/ipcameras/daynight-1MP. If your web person does not know how to do this, fire them. It's basic, basic stuff.
  • Do not create your site as a big Flash movie. No matter how cool you think it is, they will not rank. Take a look at Pelco's IP microsite. It may look slick but it's not ranking in Google because it's all flash.
You need to start tracking (1) where your rank for search terms and (2) who is linking to you
  • Do you know what search result position you are in for popular terms? Probably not. It's easy to do and free. Just download and install this free rank checker Firefox plugin. Enter in common terms (e.g., if you are a camera manufactura, enter in security camera, surveillance camera, analog camera, IP camera, etc.). Then run it periodically to see where you rank. You may be surprised and dissapointed how bad you do.
  • You must know who links to you as links are the most important element of returning high in search results. Download and install this free tool that analyzes and ranks the top 1000 sites linking to your site. You can also use it to see who links to your competitors. This will help you to understand why other companies are ahead of you.
Once you start figuring out these basics, you need to determine (1) what terms to target and (2) how to get more links.
  • Google makes figuring out what terms to target simple by providing a free tool that tells you how many people search for any term in a given month. Enter in a broad term like video surveillance or IP camera and Google not only returns the results for that term but also for dozens of related terms.
  • Getting links to your site is key. Most people never think about this. They routinely think about getting their name mentioned or winning a phony Frost & Sullivan award. Nonetheless, getting other sites to link to you is way more profitable than these other common PR/marketing activities. Once you get links from other relevant sites, you will see your search results skyrocket.

How to Get Links

Start with the easy ones: If you are a manufacturer, get your dealers to include links. Ask them to use descriptive text rather than simply your name. For instance, if you are Avigilon, don't have them use Avigilon in the anchor text. Have them say megapixel camera manufacturer. Google will take this as a vote for you as such and return Avigilon higher for searches for megapixel camera.

See if your customers will link to you. Get your investors or advisors to link to you. Ask them to customize the text so that it reflects the key terms you are targeting.

Ultimately, if you want the broader world and the most desirable links, you will need high quality content.  Most video surveillance companies have the talent to do this. The problem is that almost all companies want to publish spin documents. The problem is other people (including myself) do not want to link to fluff. As such, you have two main options:
  • Establish a blog and publish regularly with insightful commentary and analysis on infustry or technology topics. Envysion does this well with their managed video blog. People like me well then link to it, not only driving quality traffic (I usually send 50 - 100 visitors per linked item) but also increasing your search results.
  • Publish industry resources - real tutorials, videos, tools, etc that the community will find valuable. This will not only draw links, you can use this as valid reasons to ask for links from large security, military and government organizations.

Video Analytics/Intelligent Video Case Study

According to the rank checker tool, ioimage is ranked 194th for video analytics and 15th for intelligent video. 

According to the Google traffic estimators, these two terms combine for over 100,000 searches per year. Over 100,000 more searches similar to this likely occur per year (intelligent video camera, analytic camera, etc).

Currently, ioimage probably receives very little if any traffic for these keywords.

Here's how to fix it:
  • Make sure each page has a unique title tag (today it does not)
  • Make sure each page has a descriptive URL (today it does not)
  • Ask for URLs from each dealer and have the anchor text be "intelligent video" or "video analytics"
  • Since they are an Israeli company, use your connections with Israeli schools and government agencies to get links from those organizations (these can be especially valuable)
  • ioimage actually has some tutorials and resouces already available. They can promote this to other sites, directories, etc.)
This alone would probably result in tens of thousands of more visitors who are highly interested in video analytic products. These steps are fairly simple and cheap. 

Most surveillance companies can follow a similiar path.

2 reports cite this report:

How Good is ACTi's Video Quality? on Mar 10, 2009
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Economic Meltdown Rocks Security Industry on Feb 08, 2009
This is no ordinary recession. Dramatic and permanent changes have already begun. In conversations with over 30 end users, integrators and...

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